By George Kochman/Special to the Advance
A decade ago, Robby Andrews burst into track and field prominence with a series of spectacular performances that thrust him into the national spotlight.
Andrews, born on Staten Island, and representing Manalapan (N.J.) HS, set national indoor records at 800 and 1,000 meters.
Two years later, he was the talk of the track world.
At the University of Virginia, he won two NCAA 800-meter titles, was a three-time All-American, and was named the Outstanding Male Athlete at the Penn Relays while leading his team to two Championship of American titles.
And to round it out, he was given the Atlantic Coast Conference Sportsmanship award in 2011.
Turning pro, and representing adidas, he was a strong fifth at the 2012 Olympic trials 1,500 meters, and won gold and bronze at two World Championship Relays meets.
His career continued on the upswing, but here was success and disappointment in 2016.
He began with a close fourth-pace finish at the 1,500 at the World Indoor Championships, barely falling short of a bronze medal.
Andrews easily qualified for the USA Olympic team in the 1,500-meter run, but his Olympic dream ended in Rio when he was disqualified in his semifinal race after stepping inside the curb while executing his famous kick.
The following year, he defeated Matthew Centrowitz, outkicking the Olympic 1,500 champion to take his first USAFT national title.
The came Lyme disease, a long recovery, followed by a series of nagging injuries, with a 2019 surgery to remove bone spurs.
TRAINING IN ARIZONA
And world-class performances require a world-class buildup, and Andrews, an assistant coach at Princeton University, spent the winter in Flagstaff, Arizona, where many top runners gather to train at altitude. Galen Rupp and the Ingebrigtsen brothers of Norway are just a few of the world-class athletes who train at 7,000 feet.
Then came a few weeks at lower altitude in Phoenix, but on the last day, he suffered a partially torn calf muscle.
Injury only six months before the Trials necessitated pushing harder in practice, compressing time periods, and losing some of the important base training.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, many athletes had to adjust, and Andrews was no exception.
There was no indoor season, but that doesn’t seem to have phased Andrews. It gives his body extra time to heal, and to take the day-by-day training grind on a much more gradual long-term basis.
So there is a silver lining resulting from the coronavirus plague. “I would have had to rush my training in preparation for the Trials,” he said, adding, “I’m grateful to have the extra time to prepare.”
“All those muscular imbalances, all the nagging aches — I have time to work those out,” he said.
A LOT LEFT IN THE TANK
Some of America’s best track and field athletes will call it quits after the Summer Games next year. At 29, Andrews isn’t one of them. He thinks his best years are ahead of him.
He points to Nick Willis of New Zealand, a four-time Olympian and owner of two Olympic medals, still running strong in his late 30s. He thinks he can still run well for years.
“After the injuries and sickness, I have to stay positive. It may be a bit selfish. I haven’t been over-trained, and I think I still have a lot left to give.”